How COVID-19 Spreads

COVID-19 is very contagious. COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person through the air and through close contact with infected individuals. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, however, COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact. 

Anyone infected with COVID-19 can spread it, even if they do NOT have symptoms. 

How does this happen?

When an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, or talks, their mouth releases droplets that contain the COVID-19 virus. Once in the air, these infectious droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be inhaled into the lungs. Infection is possible by touching contaminated surfaces, but the risk is low.  

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and follow recommendations for isolation if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19. 
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands and coughing/sneezing into your elbow. 
  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, talk with a healthcare provider about additional prevention actions. 
  • People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask when indoors in public.

Last Reviewed: October 18, 2023